Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mudballs and Mortality

Last Sunday afternoon I was sitting at my desk when I heard a loud thunk. It didn't sound like it was inside the house and I wondered if the kids next door were playing some game that involved thunking. A minute or two later, there was another one. The cats and I looked at one another, telepathically asking, "What was that?"

There were no more thunks, so I went back to what I was doing.

It wasn't until the next day that I discovered what had caused the sounds. I went out in the backyard and found two chunks of smooth, rounded concrete on the ground near the back of the house. I looked up at the roof and, sure enough, there was a noticeable difference in color between the two tiles at the peak of the roof... and no concrete. There was concrete on the other side of the peak.



Later that day I went to the builder's sales office (Yes, there's a sales office still. In case you hadn't heard, houses aren't selling much lately, so they've still got many empty lots to build on. If any buyers show up. Buyers who can qualify for mortgages now.) and showed one of the pieces of concrete to the maintenance man.

"A mudball!" he said with glee and proceeded to explain that the concrete absorbed water from the rain and that, with the extremes in temperature and freezing and thawing and baking in one hundred degree heat, this was just part of normal maintenance. That I'd have to call a roofer to fix it since it was long past the original warranty for construction. And that I really need to have my tile roof, which I'd chosen because it wouldn't need to be recoated every other year like a flat roof, inspected every two years so that things like this could be repaired.

Oh, the joys of home ownership! Another thing to add to my list of maintenance people who need to be scheduled on a regular basis. The exterminator every three months because the lack of a hard freeze winter allows bugs to multiply happily all year round with little natural die back. The HVAC guy every spring and fall to make sure there's heat in the winter and, more importantly, air conditioning in the summer. I've experienced a night in the summer with no air conditioning. It's not something I want to experience again. The solar water heater guy to change the propylene glycol in the roof panel every three years so there's no need for the electric element to kick in. And now the roofer.

So what does this have to do with mortality? Like my house, my body seems to need more maintenance than it used to. In my teens and early twenties, I could go years without a visit to a doctor or a dentist with no ill effects. That's not true any more.

Dentists love me as a patient. I'm a guaranteed four cleanings a year and there's a good chance I'll need a crown or six as well. Several have been eager to do implants for me, but I'm holding off as long as I can on that work. My insurance plan won't cover implants because I lost the teeth before I was on their plan.

I seem to have arthritis in every joint. I can't tell you the number of times I've eventually given in and gone to a doctor about a problem, only to be told that it's because I'm getting old. I'm getting tired of that diagnosis. I know I'm getting old!

Which brings me face to face with the second M word of the title. I'm not confronting death yet, but I can see it from here. And I keep thinking about the hours I'm wasting on a regular basis, particularly at my day job. I only now realize how fortunate I've been in my career to have jobs that I mostly loved. I've worked for good companies, with good people, doing work that I felt was worthwhile. I don't feel that way about my current position. "It's a paycheck" has become the refrain of the few coworkers I can talk to there.

That is so different from how I feel when I'm immersed in my writing. I disappear into the stories I write as fully as I do into those I read. And then I emerge, amazed at that transformative experience. I want to be able to do that more. The urge to write, to create stories and worlds and people, is a hunger inside me. And I'm afraid that I'll die hungry, without published books to leave behind.

It could happen. You never know when some illness or accident will claim you. I'm not afraid of dying. I believe in eternal life with God. But I am afraid of not having made the most of the life I've been given. I need to do something about that.
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